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The Earth System

Scientific knowledge of the integrated Earth system is the foundation for responding effectively to global change.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) aims to advance scientific knowledge of the integrated natural and human components of the Earth system to improve understanding and effective decision-making.

To serve society in meeting present and future challenges, USGCRP aims to advance society's understanding of:

The Earth System

USGCRP aims to advance the fundamental understanding of the physical, chemical, biological, and human components of the Earth system, and the interactions among them, to improve knowledge of the causes and consequences of global change. USGCRP's core efforts for understanding the Earth System include:

  • Climate and Global Change
    Fostering research about the interplay between climate change and other dimensions of global change

  • Integration of the Biological Sciences
    Fostering research at the interface between the study of the physical climate system and the biological sciences

  • Integration of the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences
    Fostering research at the interface between the study of the physical climate system and the social sciences

  • Multiple Space and Time Scales, Natural Variability, and Extremes
    Fostering research into the interactions between the different spatial and temporal scales that characterize Earth system processes contributing to or being impacted by global change

  • Complexity, Thresholds, and Tipping Points
    Fostering research into the complex behaviors that emerge from these component and scale interactions (e.g., extremes, triggers, thresholds, and cascading impacts)

  • U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program
    One major example of how USGCRP advances scientific understanding of the Earth System is through the U.S. Carbon Cycle Science Program, which coordinates and facilitates activities relevant to carbon cycle science, and climate and global change issues under the auspices of the USGCRP Interagency Committee.

Global Change Impacts, Vulnerabilities and Responses

USGCRP aims to advance the fundamental understanding of the vulnerability and resilience of integrated human-natural systems and enhance the usability of scientific knowledge in supporting responses to global change. USGCRP's core efforts for advancing the science for adaptation and mitigation include:

  • Understanding Vulnerability to Global Change
    Fostering research that applies the concept of vulnerability (and related concepts of exposure, sensitivity, adaptive capacity, and resilience) to identify the sectors, regions, resources, and populations (and the relevant time horizons) that are most at risk from the impacts of global change

  • Science to Support Regional and Sectoral Responses
    Fostering research to support iterative risk management of these global change vulnerabilities through actionable knowledge for adaptation and mitigation

  • Science to Support Global-Scale Responses
    Fostering research into ecosystem services and economic valuation of global change impacts

  • Tools and Approaches for Iterative Risk Management
    Fostering research into the characterization and communication of uncertainty associated with global change vulnerability assessment and risk management